Historical Battles in Ancient & Medieval Bharat

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Postby Airavat » 11 Jun 2007 06:02

Image

Image of a Kshatriya in Ancient India.

War in Ancient India

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Postby Shwetank » 11 Jun 2007 06:32

That War in Ancient India website seems pretty outlandish. But atleast it has some pictures of what warriors and weapons looked like in India in the old days. This is something I have always had trouble finding; images, artwork, animation and live-action movies are numerous for the west and east but I almost had no idea what the weapons or warriors looked like in India till recently. One almost gets the sense that they were non-existant (well the whole leftist influenced society means we explore such topics a lot less in India as compared to other countries anyway). Could anyone please post as many visual representations of ancient and medieval warriors, weapons and other war related items in India as they can? Also there seems to be a general lack of body armor in the pics I've seen, not even bamboo or leather. THe warriors all seem to be naked in the upper body mostly except in the pics. you frequently see of the Mahabharata but those are modern imaginings. Kinda weird considering the Chinese and West both had armor.

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Postby ParGha » 13 Jun 2007 00:12

Shwetank wrote:Also there seems to be a general lack of body armor in the pics I've seen, not even bamboo or leather. THe warriors all seem to be naked in the upper body mostly except in the pics. you frequently see of the Mahabharata but those are modern imaginings. Kinda weird considering the Chinese and West both had armor.


Indian close-combat infantry carried small, round shields much like the ones used in modern kalaripayatu (Note1: Bulk of infantry was not fit for close-combat, Indians were best known for their archers. Note2: Some regional variations may exist, but these shields are found from Punjab to Kerala, Gujarat to Bengal). Body armor was impratical considering the heat, but many tied folded pieces of cloth in such ways as to protect from glancing blows and cuts. Helmets, on the other hand, were plentiful - initially worn openly, later under pagris.

Indian cavalry adopted the chain-armour from the Persians in about 300 AD, but Indian blacksmiths truly became the masters of the chain-mail (see Alexander Nevsky for its fame as far as Russia and beyond). Such a statement should however be taken with a grain of salt - as we know there is vast degree of professionalism within Indian industries, some produce world-class products while other products aren't worth the raw materials that went into them. By the 18th Century a regular Mughal/Rajput cavalryman was the best-protected horseman in the world... unfortunately for him it was 200 years into Gunpowder Age.

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Postby hnair » 13 Jun 2007 00:52

Yeah, that site is written from an enthusiast viewpoint. But it is a good effort.

There was some usage of rivetted-leather armour in Kerala. There is no place for anything heavier than that in an agile fighting style like Kalaripayattu, where the sword fighting part's stress is usually on small team combat (archers being dealt with by the Indo-persian type tetra dimpled shields that ParGha mentioned, though the size of the shields leave a lot to be desired!!). However there is a stage in Kalaripayattu training (some say it is the final stage) where the student is extensively trained in using a spear(both as a lance as well as a cutting weapon like halbard). That stage might be the most significant training from a bigger military operation perspective, particularly when dealing with cavalry.

Some of the chain mail armour is supposed to stop musket shots (though with severe trauma). I remember reading this from a Russian source (forgot the author, am not sure if it is a book on Nevsky).

I am always on the lookout for Indian medieval weaponry/tactics books. ParGha (or anyone), can you suggest some titles/authors that caught your eye? Particularly Indian archery and tactics.

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Postby ParGha » 13 Jun 2007 01:44

hnair wrote:However there is a stage in Kalaripayattu training (some say it is the final stage) where the student is extensively trained in using a spear(both as a lance as well as a cutting weapon like halbard). That stage might be the most significant training from a bigger military operation perspective, particularly when dealing with cavalry.
...

I am always on the lookout for Indian medieval weaponry/tactics books. ParGha (or anyone), can you suggest some titles/authors that caught your eye? Particularly Indian archery and tactics.


The individual spear-training in any martial art - kalaripayatu, wushu, western or anything - is the most difficult and the deadliest form of contact fighting. The mass and the reach of a spear obviously makes it the biggest weapon for contact-fighting... but managing the mass and the reach, and compensating for the lack of defense requires lot of strength and experience. In structured learning that is almost always taught at the end of a student's education, with very few people ever getting that far. That however has no application to military operations except in heroic-fighting among primitive peoples or targetted assasination of commanders. The bulk spear/pikemen can be trained in a matter of hours for their essenatial task.
...

Unfortunately I don't have dedicated books that deal with Indian weaponry or tactics, but I can give you references to books that mention Indian weapons and tactics. For example, the account of 18thC regular Mughal and Rajput soldiers being the best protected and among the best trained cavalry in the world comes from Phillip Mason's A Matter of Honour. You can also find interesting reads in BR's own "Books that cover Indian Armed forces and its History" thread :)

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Postby pradeepe » 13 Jun 2007 02:26

Airavat wrote:The first recorded battle in Indian History:

DASRAJAN

The battle of ten kings
Vishvamitra of the Kusika family was his priest but Sudas replaced him with Vasishta due to the latter's greater knowledge. A long rivalry broke out between the two priests until Vishwamitra left the Kingdom of Bharat. He formed a confederacy of ten clan-kingdoms in northwestern India, which feared the political expansion of Bharat, and used them to take his revenge.


Airavat, so does that make this account during the Ramayana period?
My knowledge is poor on these epics, but I remember the rivalry between Vasishta and Vishwamitra in the Ramayana. Or rather, Vishwamitra's quest for Brahma rishi status similar to Vasishta.

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Postby Airavat » 13 Jun 2007 03:56

Pradeep,

The problem lies in the Puranic texts. These were compiled after the Vedic texts but contain much more information on traditional history. However at some places, they combine different stories of persons with similar names, and a case in point is Vishwamitra.

Vishwamitra the sage of the Vedic texts, Vishwamitra the father of Shakuntala, and Vishwamitra mentioned in the Ramayana were all distinct personalities.

The Dasrajan, which finds a prominent place in the Rigveda, is nowhere mentioned in the Puranas or the Mahabharat, but it's victor Sudas is listed in the geneaological lists of the latter epics.

The Puranas (mostly composed in the 600 year period of the Maurya Empire to the Gupta Empire) were a great effort to narrate Indian History from the earliest times....by carefully comparing names and events from other sources and sifting legendary tales from facts, modern Indian historians are still attempting to compile a definite history of ancient times.

This process was stalled due to the leftist hegemony of the intellectual scene post-independence.

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Postby pradeepe » 13 Jun 2007 04:25

:oops: My bad. Thanks. Seeing Vasistha and Viswamitra and then of the rivalry between them made me think these were the same great rishis of the Ramayana era.

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Postby bala » 14 Jun 2007 10:54

xPost

From Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes this observation:

It is accordingly affirmed that famine has never visited India, and that there has never been a general scarcity in the supply of nourishing food.


Only the British managed to bankrupt a nation and force it into famine conditions.

But, farther, there are usages observed by the Indians which contribute to prevent the occurrence of famine among them; for whereas among other nations it is usual, in the contests of war, to ravage the soil, and thus to reduce it to an uncultivated waste, among the Indians, on the contrary, by whom husbandmen are regarded as a class that is sacred and inviolable, the tillers of the soil, even when battle is raging in their neighbourhood, are undisturbed by any sense of danger, for the combatants on either side in waging the conflict make carnage of each other, but allow those engaged in husbandry to remain quite unmolested. Besides, they neither ravage an enemy's land with fire, nor cut down its trees.


No slash and burn and destruction like the Islamists pigs that invaded the rest of the world.

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Postby hnair » 15 Jun 2007 00:52

ParGha wrote:The individual spear-training in any martial art - kalaripayatu, wushu, western or anything - is the most difficult and the deadliest form of contact fighting. The mass and the reach of a spear obviously makes it the biggest weapon for contact-fighting... but managing the mass and the reach, and compensating for the lack of defense requires lot of strength and experience. In structured learning that is almost always taught at the end of a student's education, with very few people ever getting that far. That however has no application to military operations except in heroic-fighting among primitive peoples or targetted assasination of commanders. The bulk spear/pikemen can be trained in a matter of hours for their essenatial task.


My personal view about the most difficult training is in usage of fully flexible weapons (opposed to partial ones like nan chaku). From good old chain to spiked ball 'n chain to the awesome Urumi of Kalaripayattu, accurate (and predictable) usage is so incredibly difficult. But yeah, militarily all these are of limited value compared to others.

Interesting point about the usage of spear combat. I thought once the cavalry has breached the pikers/lancers' line, the remaining ones take on a secondary role of anti-cavalry attackers? btw, purely speculating :)

You can also find interesting reads in BR's own "Books that cover Indian Armed forces and its History" thread :)


Thanks. Yeah, I am basically looking for Indian archery information. Particularly curious to know how the Hun bow got to be extensively depicted in mythological paintings etc.

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Postby SaiK » 15 Jun 2007 01:14

The wikipedia site does not talk about the ugly defeat under british which was largely due to spies and traitors around him. The sivaji ganeshan movie was great~ real heart rendering one. must see.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Cholas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajaraja_Chola_I
Naval Conquests
Detail of the main gopura (tower) of the Thanjavur Temple
Detail of the main gopura (tower) of the Thanjavur Temple

One of the last conquests of Rajaraja was the naval conquest of the ‘old islands of the sea numbering 12,000’, the Maldives.[19] We have no further details regarding this expedition, however this is a sufficient indication of the abilities of the Chola Navy, which was utilised so effectively under Rajendra I. Chola Navy also had played a major role in the invasion of Lanka.[20]

The increasing realisation of the importance of a good Navy and the desire to neutralise the emerging Chera Naval power were probably the reasons for the Kandalur campaign in the early days of Rajaraja’s reign.[21]

Nagapattinam on the Bay of Bengal was the main port of the Cholas and could have been the navy headquarters.

Military Organisation

Rajaraja created a powerful standing army and a considerable navy which achieved even greater success under Rajendra than under himself. The prominence given to the army from the conquest of the Pandyas down to the last year of the king’s reign is significant, and shows the spirit with which he treated his soldiers. Evidently Rajaraja gave his army its due share in the glory derived from his extensive conquests. A number of regiments are mentioned in the Tanjore inscriptions.

In most of the foregoing names the first portion appears to be the surnames or titles of the king himself or of his son. That these regiments should have been called after the king or his son shows the attachment, which the Chola king bore towards his army.

It may not be unreasonable to suppose that these royal names were pre-fixed to the designations of these regiments after they had distinguished themselves in some engagement or other. It is worthy of note that there are elephant troops, cavalry and foot soldiers among these regiments. To some of these regiments, the management of certain minor shrines of the temple was entrusted and they were expected to provide for the requirements of the shrine. Others among them took money from the temple on interest, which they agreed to pay in cash. We are not, however, told to what productive purpose they applied this money. At any rate all these transactions show that the king created in them an interest in the temple he built.



btw, the temples he built were still kept secret.. raja raja the great!
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 6865842301

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Postby negi » 15 Jun 2007 11:51

hnair wrote:
ParGha wrote:You can also find interesting reads in BR's own "Books that cover Indian Armed forces and its History" thread :)


Thanks. Yeah, I am basically looking for Indian archery information. Particularly curious to know how the Hun bow got to be extensively depicted in mythological paintings etc.

I wonder it can be other way round too i.e. the bow making art might have reached distant parts of asia or C-asia via the hands of the traders(foreign /native), iirc in one of the episodes of SURABHI the team had visited some mountainous region in Leh/Laddakh where a person
makes compound bows using wood and horns of a particular goat like mamal,the intestine was used to make the draw string,after googling I came across the Mongolian bow which very closely resembles the one shown in SURABHI.

Mongolian bow.


speculation: In fact if one tries to co relate the instances from our epics and the weapons described there in one would find that Arjun's bow 'Gandeev' made from Rhino's horn sounds very realistic when one compares the same to the Mongolian compound bow.

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Postby Lalmohan » 15 Jun 2007 14:01

would the composite bow not have reached India with the Shaka/Scythians, way before the Huns appeared on the scene?

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Postby ramana » 16 Jun 2007 01:54

Bibilography of the Composite Bow

And India Forum page on

Pre-Modern Warfare in India and elsewhere

and

Scythian Bows in China


There is a good article on origin of sword or Khadga written by HH in India Forum.

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Postby svinayak » 17 Jun 2007 22:45


June 17th - 150 death anniversary of Rani Laxmibai

http://www.india-forum.com/articles/407 ... -of-Jhansi


The Rani of Jhansi
By Saurav Basu | Published Today | Indian History |
Saurav Basu



Of all the characters in the epic mutiny of 1857; after 150 years later there is one name which stands tall over all others and yet ironically was one who was neither the initiator of the mutiny; neither among the leaders until the last stage and who had claims to nothing more than a small town…Yet, in many ways she was alone in her magnificence, a singular figure among a gallery of heroes. [1] She was Lakshmi Bai; and that small town immortalized forever is Jhansi.



Jhansi is a small town in the province of Uttar Pradesh, part of the region itself known as Bundelkhand. The town still feels that it owes its fame to that young Rani; who ruled for a mere 4 and a half years. It keeps alive the memory of its beloved Rani with her image on horseback imprinted all over; at crossroads; on hoardings; in parks her ubiquity conforming what people believe.
Last edited by svinayak on 18 Jun 2007 03:29, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Rahul M » 17 Jun 2007 23:09

Has anyone come across any mention of ancient Indian bows in indica ??
I do remember a book in bengali in which the author qouted a part from indica that mentioned
gigantic bows that were used by the "gange" people. It went on to say that the bows were as long as a full grown man and the firing method were very different from other archers. The Indian archers caught one end of the bow on the ground with their foot and then released arrows with such force that they could easily defeat any amour.

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Postby ssmitra » 19 Jun 2007 03:28

Does anyone know of a reference for the ORBAT during the maurya dynasty. I am particularly looking for information about how troops were managed and controlled during movement from one place to another. There is a lot of info about the dynasty itself but not about its forces. Something at the same level of detail as this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_legi ... y_Officers

for those interested I am reading a fiction called the lost legion by H. Warner Munn . not as accurate as the Emperor series by conn iggluden but nonetheless gives a good account of how entire roman legions moved.

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Postby Rahul M » 19 Jun 2007 12:02

if you can read bengali, (or have a friend who can) read "bharoter dwitio probhate" (India's 2nd awekening) by hemendra kumar ray. it's a semi fiction on samaudragupta's rise to power. has some good info and analysis of both the maurya and gupta armed forces and also some references. you will get it in the 2nd volume of his collected works.

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Postby uddu » 19 Jun 2007 21:22

A nice one
Mahabharat War Song
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv368NNbf9U

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Postby Airavat » 20 Jun 2007 04:12

ssmitra wrote:Does anyone know of a reference for the ORBAT during the maurya dynasty. I am particularly looking for information about how troops were managed and controlled during movement from one place to another. There is a lot of info about the dynasty itself but not about its forces. Something at the same level of detail as this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_legi ... y_Officers

for those interested I am reading a fiction called the lost legion by H. Warner Munn . not as accurate as the Emperor series by conn iggluden but nonetheless gives a good account of how entire roman legions moved.


Megasthenes' Indica gives some details....then there is the Arthashastra by Kautilya.

A little bit from the former:

Maurya Military Administration

Chandragupta maintained a vast standing army of 600,000. It was controlled by a war-office made up of 30 members....these 30 were ditributed among six boards of five members each:

1. Infantry
2. Cavalry
3. War-chariots
4. War-elephants
5. Transport, commissariat, and army service.

A description of board no. 5:

They co-operate with the superintendent of the bullock-trains, which are used for transporting engines of war, food for the soldiers, provender for the cattle, and other military requisites.

They supply servants who beat the drum, and others who carry gongs, grooms for the horses, and mechanists and their assistants. To the sound of the gong they send out foragers to bring in grass, and by a system of rewards and punishments ensure the work being done with despatch and safety.


These engines of war are siege-artillery referred to in the Arthashastra.

ADDED LATER:

Forgot to mention the sixth board, as pointed out by Rahul M it concerns the Mauryan Navy.

6. The members of this board were to co-operate with the Admiral of the Fleet.
Last edited by Airavat on 21 Jun 2007 04:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby ShauryaT » 20 Jun 2007 04:24

Chandragupta maintained a vast standing army of 600,000.
Was the maintenance of large standing armies the exception or the rule for a majority of the early and medieval era Hindu Kingdoms?
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Postby Rahul M » 20 Jun 2007 04:46

Airavat, a/c to arthasastra Chandragupta maurya's military also included a big riverine force with an admiral equivalent at the helm. it's main duties were handling river crossing, supplying logistics and making sure the enemy didn't do the same. this fact seems very important to me that no subsequent big Indian kingdom gave that much importance to navy.
by big, of course I mean that which could dominate at least 60% of India's current landmass.

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Postby ssmitra » 20 Jun 2007 08:31

Airavat wrote:
Megasthenes' Indica gives some details....then there is the Arthashastra by Kautilya.



These engines of war are siege-artillery referred to in the Arthashastra.


Hi Airavat, thanks for that info, I will try and see if I can find a abridged version of either. Do they say what kind of siege engines were used and were they similar to the romans. On a different note were the different "boards/battle groups taken from different parts of India or trained according to individual ability.

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Postby disha » 20 Jun 2007 09:43

Rahul M wrote: By big, of course I mean that which could dominate at least 60% of India's current landmass.


:shock:

Cholas
Pallavas
Maratha confederacy

Agreed that by the time of Ashoka the Mauryan empire spanned such a large extent that even now it may be unsurpassed. But that does not mean they are the only *large* empires to concentrate on Navy. Also, coming with a number like 60/70% for large is just a technicality. Even 30% would be considered very large by European standards ;-).

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Postby Rahul M » 20 Jun 2007 11:06

Cholas
Pallavas
Maratha confederacy

Agreed that by the time of Ashoka the Mauryan empire spanned such a large extent that even now it may be unsurpassed. But that does not mean they are the only *large* empires to concentrate on Navy. Also, coming with a number like 60/70% for large is just a technicality. Even 30% would be considered very large by European standards Wink.


very true, especially the last part. but my point was (and is) an empire that was the single most important force in the sub-continent. in that case the defence of the whole nation as we know it would have been their responsibility.

none of the 3 kingdoms could lay any claim to that effect.

I agree that 60-70% is a technicality.
but think of this, roughly India has 5-6 regions
north (comprising current day punjab, haryana, kashmir, parts of uttaranchal ) west (mah, gujrat,rajasthan), east (bengal, bihar, assam, parts of orissa ), central (up,mp, chhattisgarh) and the south (deccan and south). depending on the time you are talking about present day sindh, baluchistan, and parts of hindukush area would form the sixth region.
to dominate the subcontinent, you must control at least 3 of these regions i.e about 60 % of the sub continent.
of course, if all the kingdoms developed their naval and military prowess at the same time, that would have had the same effect as a big central power (ala ancient greece) but
unfortunately, that didn't happen !!

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Postby Airavat » 21 Jun 2007 05:51

ssmitra wrote:On a different note were the different "boards/battle groups taken from different parts of India or trained according to individual ability.


What I understand is that Chandragupta's career decided the composition of his army. Chandragupta belonged to Moriya clan of Pipphalivana, which lost its lands to the Nanda Empire of Magadha. Chandragupta was in rebellion against the Nandas when he made an alliance with Chanakya, who took him to Taxila in the northwest. At this time came Alexander's invasion and retreat....due to the tough fighting Alex left much of the lands to his Indian allies and at other places posted Greek/Macedonian garrisons.

War of Liberation in Punjab-Sindh

326 BCE Alexander retreats, rebellion in Kandahar under an Indian chief. Chandragupta and Chanakya make an alliance with Parvatak, the ruler of a Himalayan state, and recruit the many warrior clans scattered by Alexander's invasion. The Assakenoi warrior clan kill the Greek Satrap Nicanor.

325 BCE murder of Philippus in the upper Sindhu valley.

324 BCE Chandragupta annointed Emperor.

321 BCE Pithon, the Satrap of Sindh, abandons his post.

317 BCE Eudemus, commander of the garrison in western Punjab, murders his colleague the Indian King Porus (Puru), and leaves India forever.

War against the Nanda Empire

Brahmin, Buddhist, and Jain tradition all agree that Chandragupta initially made a mistake by directly attacking the capital Pataliputra. They compare it to a child trying to eat a hot pie by inserting his finger right in the center!

But ultimately Chandragupta besieges Pataliputra again, after mopping up the garrisons along the way, and kills the Emperor Dhana Nanda.

War against Seleucos

Seleucos inherits the empire of Alexander and tries to recvoer the Indian possessions. Chandragupta marches back to the northwest and defeats the Greeks in 305 BCE....the latter surrender lands corresponding to Baluchistan and Afghanistan to Chandragupta. Later the two empires make peace between them that lasts for a century.

War in the South

Chandragupta's empire stretched up to Mysore in the south but no details are available of that campaign. Some ancient Tamil texts refer to the invasion of the south, from the Konkan and through Cannanore and Coimbatore, by the 'upstart Mauryas' (Vamba Moriyar). This is taken as a reference to the Maurya Empire.

So it is safe to assert that the Maurya army was recruited from all over India. It may also have included some mercenaries.

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Postby Singha » 21 Jun 2007 07:24

whenever I see kings winning from very difficult circumstances there is always some kind of 'guru' or 'strategic adviser' in the background like chanakya.

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Postby Airavat » 25 Jun 2007 04:07

The Saka-Satvahan Wars

The 13th Rock Edict of Ashoka places the land of the Andhras somewhere in the upper Deccan. They were probably autonomous during the Maurya Empire, but as the edict explains, were following the laws of Ashoka. Centuries later their power had expanded to such a degree that the contemporary Roman writer Pliny speaks of a powerful king of the Andhra country who posseses 30 fortified towns, and an army of 100,000 infantry, 2000 cavalry, and 1000 elephants.

Under Simuka, their first ruler to be mentioned in inscriptions, the Satvahans had formed an empire covering the whole of the Deccan and Central India.

Around this time the Sakas from eastern Iran had been moving into Baluchistan and Sindh, which acquired the name Indo-Scythia in Greek accounts. From this base different Satrapal families conquered parts of northwestern India....however their attempted conquest of Ujjain was defeated by the Malava clan (57 BCE).

By 65 CE the Kushans conquered the Saka possessions and sent an army under the Saka Kshaharata family to Gujarat. Ujjain was taken from the Malavas in 78 CE, in honor of which feat a new era was founded by Kanishka (later known as the Saka era).

In a temporary eclipse of Satvahan power, the Kshaharata Sakas also captured the Konkan belt and parts of upper Maharashtra. A viceroy of these foreigners, named Rishabdatta, made his own inscriptions in the Nasik caves, where the Satvahans had inscribed the records of their reign.

In 106 CE Gautamiputra Satkarni acended to the Satvahan throne and began a tough campaign to "exterminate the Sakas and restore the fame of the Satvahanas."

In 124 CE an inscription in the Nasik caves records an order of Gautamiputra, "issued from his victorious army camp", making a grant of land that was originally in possession of Rishabdatta.

Not only were the Sakas repulsed but the Satvahan army went on to enter Gujarat and destroy the very power of the Kshaharat family by killing the Saka Satrap Nahapana....this was acheived even as the Kushan Empire still existed.

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Postby Ramanan K » 28 Jun 2007 04:08

I don't understand why some of you don't consider the Chola empire to be 'large'. Although they didn't control 60% of india (they dominated southern and eastern india, including parts of bihar/sikkim), and campaigned as far northwest as UP, as far north as the Himalayas (where they stamped the chola insignia and built shrines to Shivji) and as far south as the maldives/lanka/andaman&nicobar islands. Their largest conquests were Java, Sumatra (in Indonesia), coastal borneo and Sulawesi, Malaysia, and parts of Thailand and Cambodia (i'm referring to the modern territorial equivalents). Chola military garrisons and temples have been found in Myanmar as well but I'm talking strictly about conquests and territorial holdings for more than 25+ years. They held Malaya/Indonesia on and off for 150 of their 400 year Imperial reign. In totality, those territorial acquisitions would be as large if not larger than the Maurya empire.

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Postby Gus » 28 Jun 2007 08:16

Rahul M wrote: this fact seems very important to me that no subsequent big Indian kingdom gave that much importance to navy.
by big, of course I mean that which could dominate at least 60% of India's current landmass.


Bay of Bengal was known as the "the Chola pond".

Map of Chola empire during Rajendra Chola.

Image

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Postby Airavat » 29 Jun 2007 06:22

Some questions about the Cholas:

1) Any information on the naval battles fought by the Cholas? Some historians claim that the ships transported the Chola armies to the Indonesian islands and all the battles fought with the Sailendra Empire were on land. Any description or record of a ship vs. ship battle?

2) Early in their rise to power the Cholas are said to have destroyed the rival Chera Navy (in modern Kerala)....how was this feat achieved? By a naval attack around the southern tip of India or a land attack into Chera country?

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Postby Ramanan K » 29 Jun 2007 10:17

Hi Airavat,

I'll describe some recollections from my numerous academic readings on this topic which will be relevant to your questions.

1) The Cholas used several types of large sailing ships such as the Colandia which was capable of carrying several bull elephants or a compliment of several hundred sailors and their equipment.

1b) The Chola navy did engage in naval battles, both ship to ship as well as ship to land. There are numerous inscriptions at Thanjavur temple regarding this, especially about a spectacular attack on a coastal fortress at Kadaram, Malaysia. Modern archeological digs in this site suggest the fortress was made with stone and wood right on a sheer cliff face, and the attack came from the sea. How they scaled the cliffs and overwhelmed the defenders in the fortress is still not known. There is a famous carved stone relief in an Indonesian temple which has a detailed engraving of a Chola warship, a medium sized yet very modern looking one. Similar types of ships are still being built in Indonesia by the Bugis people of Sulawesi (areas which were previously under Chola occupation). Here is an image of a typical Bugis schooner (unarmed version of a Chola vessel):
http://www.songlinecruises.com/images/Rima2a.jpg
The Chola vessel in the inscription was very similar, however it had outriggers on one side and had round shields attached to the sides.
The strength of the Chola forces was primarily land warfare and their ability to move over vast distances at great speed and in coordination.

2) The Chera navy was destroyed while berthed in their main port, in those days the Cholas dynasty were a newly rising power and had not yet risen to an empire. They marched by land through a gap in the Western Ghats (near Coimbatore) and marched straight in. Their navy was quite small in comparison to the Chera and Pandya navies. After uniting the 3 Tamil kingdoms, and gaining booty from their campaigns in Sri Lanka and N.India they had the resources to expand into a trans-oceanic imperial force.

P.S. People were wondering why imagery from the Mahabharatha showed body armour..well those armour pieces were exact replicas or reproductions of armour that was commonly used by the late Nayaka kingdoms of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka (specifically the cavalry forces), as the infantry were slowly modernized into musketeers (halbusiers). The Nayaks of Andhra Pradesh and Vijayanagara were slightly different, as they had different shaped helmets (more conical), and less plate armour as that was a post-vijayanagar pre-british feature of the Poligars of South India. The Rajputs and Khalsa kingdoms too maintained a high level of armour development, though theirs were more heavily influenced by the Ottoman-->Persian-->Mughal armour.

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Postby Airavat » 03 Jul 2007 07:18

Image

Gupta Empire

The Imperial Guptas could not have achieved their successes through force of arms without an efficient martial system. Historically, the best accounts of this comes not from the Hindus themselves but from Chinese and Western observers. However, a contemporary Indian document, regarded as a military classic of the time, the Siva-Dhanur-veda, offers some insight into the military system of the Guptas. Like Indian kings before them, and The Guptas seem to have relied heavily on infantry archers, and the bow was one of the dominant weapons of their army. The Hindu version of the longbow was composed of metal, or more typically bamboo, and fired a long bamboo cane arrow with a metal head. Unlike the composite bows of Western and Central Asian foes, bows of this design would be less prone to warping in the damp and moist conditions often prevalent to the region. The Indian longbow was reputedly a powerful weapon capable of great range and penetration and provided an effective counter to invading horse archers. Iron shafts were used against armored elephants, and fire arrows were also part of the bowmen's arsenal. India historically has had a prominent reputation for its steel weapons. One of these was the steel bow. Due to its high tensility, the steel bow was capable of long range and penetration of exceptionally thick armor. These were less common weapons than the bamboo design and found in the hands of noblemen rather than in the ranks. Archers were frequently protected by infantry equipped with shields, javelins, and longswords.

The Guptas also had knowledge of siegecraft, catapults, and other sophisticated war machines.

The Guptas apparently showed little predilection for using horse archers, despite the fact these warriors were a main component in the ranks of their Scythian, Parthian, and Hepthalite (Huna) enemies. However, the Gupta armies were probably better disciplined. Able commanders like Samudragupta and Chandragupta II would have likely understood the need for combined armed tactics and proper logistical organization. Gupta military success likely stemmed from the concerted use elephants, armored cavalry, and foot archers in tandem against both Hindu kingdoms and foreign armies invading from the Northwest. The Guptas also maintained a navy, allowing them to control regional waters.


What is missing in this article is Chandra Gupta II's northwestern campaign. The Delhi Iron Pillar inscription states that the King, "defeated a confederacy of hostile chiefs in Vanga, and having crossed in warfare the seven mouths of the River Sindhu, conquered the Vahlikas."

For the first few years of his reign Chandra Gupta II was engaged against the Sakas of Gujarat, subsequently there were rebellions by chiefs who had earlier submitted to his father Samudra Gupta. The first to be subdued were the chiefs in Bengal (Vanga) and after that Chandra Gupta crossed the five Punjab rivers, the Sindhu, and the Kabul rivers to reach Balkh (Vahlika) or Bactria, which he conquered.

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Postby Govind » 04 Jul 2007 16:38

when the Mongol invaders appeared on the borders of india, why did they not
invade? My search on the web shows that they were interested, some of genghiz khans relatives were involved but the main horde did not turn this direction rather it turned west towards baghdad.

Was that a blessing for Islamic rule in India? did it preserve the continuation of islamic rule? Everything i read says that the delhi sultanate was indeed hostile and fearful of a mongol invasion. Considering that mongols welcomed those who allied with them and extinguished those who opposed them. The rajput and other hindu chiefs were seething at their loss of independence during those times. surely, they must have made excellent allies for mongols.

If the mongols, who were non-islamic at that time had razed delhi, just like they did baghdad, would that not have snuffed the life out of the slave sultanate like it did the caliphate? islamic civilization declined after that. Surely the same could have been repeated with delhi and the tree could have been cut without it growing roots. And the mongols with time would have withdrawn and been assimilated into the native culture like the huns b4 them.

According to every history book and website, India was saved from a catastrophe, but I believe otherwise(at least from a hindu and jain cultural and civ. perspective).

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Postby Lalmohan » 04 Jul 2007 17:07

when genghiz arrived on the indus he did so having exhausted his army in defeating the khwarazm shah. lines of comms extended, exhausted and undermanned force with a large persian empire to consolidate and faced with a powerful indian army, genghis decided not to pursue the defeated jehangir the crown prince of khwarazam into india

later on the mongols were preoccupied with consolidation of their other empires - allocated into five regions for each son of genghiz, to attack india seriously.

whilst many mongols did raid the western peripheries of india, there was no sustained invasion - most probably because for much of the time, the central power in delhi maintained a strong standing army which the mongol miltiary and strategic intelligence would have rated as more difficult to take on than less organised foes

timur claims mongol descent but is really turkic, and he really only raided on a grand scale

babur claims descent from genghiz and timur, but came under very different circumstances

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Postby Anand K » 04 Jul 2007 19:41

1. The Indian summer of 1220 was particularly atrocious
2. Mukbarani the son of the Khwarzim Shah was "rebuffed" by Iltumish (and the former chose some wrong pals and then wasted his time fighting Qubacha in Sindh)
3. Iltumish reinforced his western marches, and he had the reputation of being a brilliant general.
4. Too many crazy tribes like the Khokkars as well as the Hindu chieftains running around there...

and perhaps the most important reason;

5. Mongols lavved the gold!. The control of that wide swathe from the Yellow Sea to the Mediterranean would yield at least three fourths of the world's trade and commerce (the rest was of course the Indian-SE trade and the Adriatic-Levant line but that could be taken later). A detour into India would perhaps be like Hitler's disastrous decision to swing to the Volga instead of pressing into Moscow. Take the Sultanate off the grid (which would be at some cost) and even if you immediately leave the whats left of North India, you have every other royal popinjay/crazy tribe snapping at your heels (if not making a united stand). OTOH Persia and fabulous Baghdad offered just as many riches and a victory over these would perhaps unhinge Islam itself. As long as the Injuns don't attack from the rear and foil these plans, that is.....
In fact many Muslims really thought the end of times had come. If it wasn't for the death of the Great Khan and the Battle of Ain Jalut, perhaps they would have gone as far as Gibraltar (where the Northern army could link up after razing Europe). :roll:

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Postby Airavat » 05 Jul 2007 03:13

Govind wrote:when the Mongol invaders appeared on the borders of india, why did they not
invade?

.......According to every history book and website, India was saved from a catastrophe, but I believe otherwise(at least from a hindu and jain cultural and civ. perspective).


You are right. India was not saved from a catastrophe....and much worse the Mongol triumph over the Muslims actually made things tougher for India!

For many of the Turko-Afghan tribes escaped the Mongol sword to take shelter with the Delhi Sultanate....one of these, the Khaljis, usurped the throne and pushed the boundaries of the Sultanate over a large part of India.

Mongol soldiers did enter India later on by joining the service of the Delhi Sultans ....some of them rebelled and joined the Rajputs in resisting the Muslim Turks:

At one of these forts, named Ranthambhor, two Mongol brothers Kehbru and Alaghu fought alongside the Rajput Rana Hammir Dev. Alaghu was captured by the Turks and was offered a high post in the Muslim army with his followers. Alaghu spurned the offer because after fighting alongside the highborn Hindu leader he was not willing to serve under the lowly Khaljis who were once the servants of the all-conquering Mongols. See Manollasa

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Postby Ramanan K » 05 Jul 2007 07:01

Fascinating info, much appreciated. I have a particular softspot for the Mongols, one of the most fascinating civilizations from a military perspective. They really set the Muslim world back, there is very little pre-Mongol Islamic architecture in Central Asia and Iran. It seems those the Mongols conquered absorbed their strategies/tactics/equipment and used it against Hindu kingdoms (e.g. the Indo-Turks).

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Postby ramana » 05 Jul 2007 07:37

One of those coffee table top books "Important battles of the World" by some UK general had a description of the battle between the Mongols and the delhi sultanate. I regret not buying the book as i had to leave the store. Will dig it up and post the details.

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Postby Govind » 05 Jul 2007 14:01

Timur was very successful against the Delhi sultanate but he was by that time muslim...so hardly there was any change.

History tells me that northwest of india was constantly raided by mongols. Chengiz Khan himself in pursuit of the shah's son fought at the battle of Indus and could have proceeded to Delhi. There was no reason he could not have succeeded. The mongols were non-islamic at that time and certainly India had more gold and treasure than all of the fertile crescent and europe put together. War needs money and allies. Conquest of china certainly financed the rapid expansion of the largest empire on earth.

The delhi sultanate was a fledgling one at the time of iltumish and the sultanate did not have a good grip over the lands they conquered. They were still confined to few walled cities. There was fierce resistance to their rule from the native chiefs and the Khan would have found more than willing allies.

And, moreover, the Mongols were absorbed into their conquered lands after consolidation. Mongols integrated into china (Buddhist and others) were different from the Mongols who integrated in central and west Asia (islam). surely after snuffing the life out of just recently established Islamic sultanate, Mongols would have integrated with their native allies. The ranthombor (non islamic mongols + rajputs) incident quoted above suggests that this might indeed could have happened.

Till balban, who also fended of most Mongol raids, they were non -Islamic.

Of course, the Delhi sultanate was strong, Alauddin Khilji defeated the most concentrated attack by Mongols but by that time those Mongols(central asian) were Islamic.

Punjab bore the brunt of these incursions. Lahore and peshawar were razed many a time. Did the Mongol Khan turn back for the same reason as Alexander the Macedonian. But the brunt of those invasions were invested upon the muslim rulers and their soldiery. Is there any record or info on non-muslim feudals changing loyalties and rising in rebellion against the sultanate.

It would have been catastrophic for islamic rule in india but not for the non-islamics. New blood would have led to resurgence of the natives. Considering what they did to baghdad's ulema and its caliphate, delhi's fate would have hardly been different. Native culture would have been spared and assimilated them just like in china.

I believe that the rebels missed a chance of inviting the Khan to India promising him riches in exchange for rooting out the delhi sultanate. Had that been done, islamic rule would have ended in 1221.


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